The house at the end of Old Mill Road has been empty for twenty years. The death house as it is now called had once been the home of Carl Lankford. Carl had been the gravedigger and coffin builder for the small town of Appleton, Virginia. He had been from the old school of grave digging and would use a shovel and pick to hand dig each grave.
Carl had prided himself on his coffins as well. His coffins had been handmade of the finest hardwoods, usually oak, and each one had been custom made to fit its intended occupant. Carl had been able turn one out in about two and a half days, which was plenty of time as most burials took place no less than three days after death.
Three children had filled Carl’s home as well as his heart and he had loved his wife, Mavis as much as he had their three children. Carl Jr., seven at the time, had been considered the scholar of the family. Carl and Mavis would always make such a fuss over his report cards, which had consisted of mostly A’s and B’s. Robert or Bubba as everyone had called him, had been only four, but had seemed the one most likely to carry on the business, and had dearly loved helping his father in the workshop Carl had turned his basement into. Then there had been little Cindy. The Langford’s only daughter and the light of Carl’s life. At only three Cindy’s aptitude hadn’t shown itself as yet, but Carl had been sure with her natural blonde hair and lovely face she would no doubt be a success.
Carl had come home one day after many hours of digging graves, two had been needed, and for reasons still unknown, killed his entire family. The killings had not at all been quick or painless. Carl had used a carving knife on Mavis and she had had ninety stab wounds that, according to the coroner, had been inflicted over a period of several hours. She had been found with her wrists tied to the bed posts and, judging by the pool of blood at the end of the bed, it had been concluded that he had tortured each of his three children while she had been made to watch. Her legs had been skinned from ankle to knee and, by the blood patterns on the sheet, it had been concluded that this had been done while she was still alive.
A circular pattern of blood spatter on the walls had indicated that Carl had slit his four year old son’s throat, and swung him in a circle over his head as the boy’s blood had been forced out by centrifugal force. Carl had swung the boy three times and there had been three straight, though slightly wavy, lines of blood, with runs coming down, on the walls of the room. It had looked like a novice painter, with too much red paint on his brush, had painted three red circles around the room.
Carl had then gone into the kitchen, and with a very sharp meat cleaver, castrated himself. His trail of blood had led to the living room where he had hung himself from one of the exposed beams in the ceiling.
A young deputy, Henry Clarke, had been the first officer on the scene. Laura Dixon had been hit by a car on Route Forty and killed. When no one had answered the phone at the Lankford place Henry had been sent out to investigate. It had been nearly two weeks before anyone had missed the family, and it had been hot that last week with temperatures in the low nineties. It had been late June, so the kids were out of school, and as it had been hard for the gravedigger’s family to make friends no one had missed them.
The stench had hit Henry as soon as he exited his patrol car and stood about twenty feet down wind of the house. He had his handkerchief out and over his mouth and nose by the time he had reached the front porch. He tried the door and it had not been locked. He swung open the door and what had seemed to him to be at least a million flies took wing and scattered to the nearest windows.
Henry’s first sight had been Carl, hanging from a rope by his then stretched thin neck. Carl’s rotting flesh had been teeming with maggots in constant motion; wiggling and squiggling under what had remained of his flesh. Some of Carl’s skull had become visible behind what had been left of his face. The grisly scene had caused Henry to flee the house. He had stood at the corner of the house nearest his car and blew his undigested lunch all over Mavis Lankford’s prize winning roses.
After Henry had composed himself he had called out the entire town; police backup, ambulance, coroner and, then sheriff, Harlan Crenshaw. Upstairs the three bodies of Carl’s children had been piled up in reverse order to the order in which they had been killed. Their rotting skin crawled as maggots gorged themselves underneath. Bubba’s throat had been cut, and Carl Jr.’s arms and legs had been amputated like a butcher would cut up a chicken. Cindy had had some kind of a fiendish autopsy performed on her and her tiny vital organs had lain in a rotting pile on the end of the blood soaked bed.
The air inside the house had been black with buzzing flies. Every time someone would take a step or make a move the loudness of their buzzing would increase as even more flies would take wing and fill the air. A single fly had landed on Henry’s hand, and the thought of where it had been, caused him to again visit the rose bush beside the house. It had taken nearly two weeks to complete the clean up.
Neither Carl nor Mavis had any other family and the sheriff had found no next of kin to notify of the incident. The house had eventually come under the ownership of Dan Harriman’s real estate company and has stood empty and unsold ever since.
The house is now used by the younger children for target practice and every window is broken. The older children use it for Halloween parties and club initiations.
It is said that every year on the anniversary of the incident Carl can be seen going through the motions the exact way he had done it all those years ago. The screams of his wife and children can be heard emanating from the empty house. The final sounds to be heard are the creaking of the rope against the wooden beam as Carl swings, once again, from the end of it.
The Tale of the Death House By James G. Kelly